Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Ćwarmin: The Polar Question and Its Other Uses

The polar question in Ćwarmin is formed partially by syntactical means, partially by morphological ones. In addition, intonation also plays a role, with rising intonation towards the end of the phrase.

The main morphological indication is a suffix, for human nouns -k[ə|o]r, for inanimates -t[ə|o]r. This is an exceptional morpheme in that it agrees with the animacy of the relevant noun – when marking a verb, it may distinguish whether the question pertains (more) to an animate or an inanimate argument of that verb. It usually is located on the verb, but can also be moved to a fronted NP. 

Here are different questions regarding whether Kier steals apples:
Kier-kər lend-itiś mesl-i
does Kier steal apples?

Kier lend-ijiś mesl-i-kər
does Kier steal apples?

lend-ijiś Kier mesl-i-tər
Kier lend-ijiś mesl-i-tər
Apples is what Kier steals, aren't they?

lend-(ijiś)-tər Kier mesl-i
does Kier steal apples?

-tər and -kər both sometimes surpress accusative marking, with inanimates even plural marking is sometimes omitted in the core cases before -tər. This is a place where some differential object marking actually occurs in Ćwarmin, with indefinites generally omitting the accusative or plural marking before the interrogative marker.

However, the same structure with -kər/-tər appears in 'regardless of'-style meanings, and in 'whether'-style meanings. In 'regardless of', the tone is falling throughout, whereas in 'whether' the tone has a light premature rise before falling.
bec a Alas staŋn-u-tor kinl-əc
you (c) Alas answer_yes-Q ask-2sg ?
you ask whether Alas answers yes?
'a' is an optional complementizer that introduces subordinate clauses. 
Parsing -tor/-tər in this way is only permitted with verbs of knowledge and perception.

The 'regardless of'-meaning usually goes after the verb, but can go elsewhere - clause-initial position or even just before the verb.
wərs-ic sewk-ər kurćap(-utćo) au-tor.
walrus-meat eat-1sg salty(-obj.compl.) is-Q
I eat walrus-meat regardless if it's salty
Autor sometimes is rendered as 'ator', aukor as 'akor'.

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